“We are late to the game on this. Our children are already one and three years old."
The mother who shared that note with me is far from alone. At least half the baby blessing inquiries I get are from parents who worry they have already waited too long.
They were busy navigating postpartum recovery, anxiety or depression; facing feeding or health issues with their baby; getting the hang of being a parent, or parenting another child; changing jobs; moving; caring for an elder family member; facing a pandemic...
If this sounds like you, it's not too late.
As the mother at the beginning of this story explained, “We are conflicted about the pressure to have our kids baptized. It's difficult because we're not religious and we don't belong to a church." But, she continued:
“We feel strongly about having some kind of blessing ceremony for our children where we recognize how special they are and the joy they've brought us by coming into this world."
It's true that many parents who are non-religious or do not belong to a church, temple or faith community struggle to envision a blessing ceremony, dedication or alternative baptism for their children. This conflict often results in delaying a plan or, more commonly, doing nothing at all.
But it's also true that we live in a society almost totally defined by chronos, the Ancient Greek word for “clock time." In this linear concept of time, we are forever moving in one direction: away. The amorphous “away" is growing up, getting older...our lives moving toward their finite end.
From this viewpoint, time is “slipping away" or running out. After all, “there are only so many hours in a day," we tell ourselves. We are always short on time (never long on it!), and only by speeding or extraordinary efficiency can we hope to gain or recover any time otherwise lost (it never seems to “slip back," does it?).
Increasingly, ours is also a culture of endlessly adding - more education, more information, more plans, more responsibilities, more cares and concerns - becoming perpetually busier without ever being able to replenish the limited supply of time with which we do and manage and maintain it all.
(Just think of the relief so many of us feel when something we've committed to gets canceled: we may feel disappointment, but that is quickly replaced by gratitude for the unexpected gift of unscheduled time...which we often hastily refill.)
This is life on a treadmill; the life so many of us lead without ever giving it a second thought.
But what if there was another way to experience time? A generative time? A time that was inside you, that belonged to you, that could not be defined or taken away by the culture or the clocks and calendars?
If chronos can be measured quantitatively, kairos - the other kind of time recognized by the Ancient Greeks - can only be understood qualitatively. In other words, it must be felt.
Kairos is defined as the “right or opportune moment," drawing reference from both archery (in which the archer finds the opening to shoot their arrow) and weaving (when the weaver draws the yarn through a momentary gap in the cloth).
Kairos is the time no one else can tell for you.
Being fully present, wakeful and watchful, poised as the weaver or archer in their craft, we simply know when the time has arrived.
We're more familiar with this idea when it pertains to our biological selves: we're encouraged to “listen" (aka, be present) to our body's need for sleep, or hunger, or satiation... But what if we applied this same listening, this alert presence, to other areas of our lives?
We are so defined by external structures - school, work, schedules - that it's almost impossible to imagine, isn't it? We're like beginning archers, barely yet able to launch our arrows from the bow string.
This is a big idea, I know.
But you can start applying it now, today, in your life...and just see what happens!
Try listening, inside, to the next question you have, the next opportunity you encounter, the next decision you make. Try seeing through the lens of kairos instead of chronos. Is this your opening? Is it the opportune moment? Your right time?
Okay, so what does all this have to do with baby blessings, you may be wondering?
Well, amusingly, babies and children are less beholden to “clock time" than anyone else you know (as any parent will confirm)! But in seriousness, of all the situations, milestones and life stages in which I work with people, no where else do I see our culturally pervasive view of time having such a negative impact.
Could it really ever be too late to bless your child? To offer them welcome in this world; in your family? To invite love, wisdom and protection to encircle them? To name special supporters and extra caregivers for them? To affirm your obligations and aspirations as parents? To give thanks for the gift of your child's life?
If you look at it for one minute from any other lens than the merciless driver that is chronos, of course the answer is NO.
No, my friends, it's not too late.
(And probably most of the other things you thought were "too late" for you aren't, either.)